A Glorious Rammy of Whisky

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Edinburgh Surgeons’ Hall Museum — don’t you wish your doctors’ office looked like this?

Last Saturday evening, I was privileged to take part in the first (of many more, I hope) Edinburgh Whisky Stramash. Arriving after a long, hot day of shopping with my mother-in-law, I was ready for some palate-tempting, thirst-quenching adult beverages. Luckily, I was not disappointed! Because it was crowded and there were many things to see and do, I neglected to take any tasting notes. I’m going to use this post just to remind myself of what I had and what I’d like to have again.

We got in line for cocktails straightaway, as there were only two bartenders slinging the Jura Superstition into surprisingly delicious mojitos and mules. Whilst waiting to get to the front, I snagged a few drams: Tobermory 15, Ledaig 10 (which is fast becoming one of my go-to whiskies), Glen Moray Classic and Glen Moray 16. Those were the first Glen Morays I’ve had and I definitely plan on having a larger dram of the 16 again.

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New life goal: whisky library.

Over at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I enjoyed a lively Bowmore 14 (Cask 3.188) and giggled when I saw 63.27. My husband had the 76.89, a fantastic Mortlach 16 sherry cask. Moving on the next tasting room, I had another first with Dewar’s 12, then enjoyed Aberfeldy 12, the ever-satisfying Amrut Single Cask and Amrut Fusion, a fantastic Clynelish 16 bottled by Robert Graham, Tobermory 14, two new (to me) Wemyss bottlings — Red Cream Berries and The Hive. Then a taste of Dunkeld Atholl Brose, which would be lovely with some ice cream. Don’t ask me why, but I went on to Benromach Peat Smoke and the Benromach Organic, followed by Kilkerran 2004 which was a fantastic dram to end the night.

If that looks like a lot of whisky — it is. Luckily they were serving pretty tiny drams and all the ones I listed I split with my husband. Sure, I was still pretty steamin’ by the end of the night but I expected nothing less at an event that bills itself as “a glorious rammy of whisky”.

I also want to give a shout out to my new friends at J.K.’s Scrumpy Cider, who were there with Thistly Cross and their bar full of delicious apple concoctions. There wasn’t actually any Scrumpy to hand, but they did offer great banter and a fantastic apple brandy from my home state of North Carolina. I’m going to have to hunt down their organic Michigan cider when I return to the US…

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We ended the evening with the final performance of the murder mystery — an excellent whodunnit, especially for people who are already drunk. They never did tell us who the killer was, though…My money’s on the wife. She looked like the only sober one there.

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Cretan Delight


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Last week, I took a belated honeymoon to Crete. I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece for years, and although my finances don’t permit a month-long cruise on a private yacht around the islands, spending a week on lovely Crete turned out to be an excellent Plan B.

The island just teemed with beautiful edibles, like the artichoke plant above. Because it’s just the beginning of the season, a lot of things weren’t ripe yet — grapes and olives, most notably — but still, every day we gobbled fresh oranges plucked straight from the tree and marveled at the abundant lemons and limes in nearly every garden.

We’d deliberately rented a villa with a kitchen, but most of our meals were simple — fresh yogurt and honey in the morning, nibbles on the beach during the day, and sausage, peppers, olives, pasta, wine for dinner. Every meal we ate out was mouthwatering: the best gyro I’ve ever had after an 18 km hike, stuffed with salads and fries; oven-baked lamb so tender I didn’t even need a knife; pan-fried snails with thyme; and, naturally, a delicious whole fish (don’t even remember what kind it was) with nothing but fresh lemon.

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Before I tore into him. Doesn’t he look so peaceful? The “after” scene was a brutal business, indeed.

Every meal, even the gyros, included wine or retsina and was followed by a delicious dram (does one call it that? It wasn’t a shot because we sipped it) of ouzo. The local wine was so fruity and fresh, full of citrus flavors and sea salt, with herbal tones and some kind of rich warmth I can’t describe. It did taste just as I imagined the landscape would.

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Overlooking Agia Roumeli, on the southern coast.

My only regret is that the week passed too quickly, and at the end, I couldn’t take any of the local wine, honey or raki home with me (thank you, ridiculous EasyJet luggage fees!). I suppose that just means I’ll have to go back again someday with a little more money and, hopefully, a lot more time.

Tasting Notes: Water of Life Society Annual General Meeting

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The other night, the Edinburgh University Water of Life Society held its Annual General Meeting and final (formal) tasting of the academic year. Knowing we would all be on the brink of depression over the summer hiatus — for some of us, the forever hiatus as we leave Edinburgh — the committee selected a cracking line up of truly superb drams, each member getting one selection which made for an unthemed but nevertheless delicious tasting.

Balblair 2001
Balblair doesn’t do age statements, opting instead for vintages. This one was probably bottled in 2010 or 2011.

Nose: Very light and subtle with both toffee and caramel, brown butter, hay. Deepened to include chocolate notes after some time.

Palate: Incredibly smooth and balanced — nothing too complex here but still an enjoyable whisky to roll around a bit on the tongue.

Finish: Like everything else, very subtle. A perfect starter dram to the evening.

Blair Athol y.o. 12 Flora and Fauna
Nose: Lots of desserts here: caramel shortbread, sticky toffee pudding, some light marshmallow notes and something green I couldn’t put my finger on at first — perhaps watercress?

Palate: Not quite as sweet as the nose would have me believe; mainly nutty and a bit leathery with, yes, a hint of watercress.

Finish: Spicy, short, and satisfying. This was my favorite dram of the evening.

Cadenhead’s 15 y.o. single cask (Ord distillery)
One assumes that by Ord they mean Glen Ord…?

Nose: The first thing I thought was, This smells like a granola bar! And indeed, there’s lots of toasted oats and honey.

Palate: Spiciness hit me like a swarm of bees, but once that settled down I got dark plum with some bits of apricot and nice heavy oak. Adding a drop of three of water allowed the fruity notes to really blossom.

Finish: I neglected to note the finish but from what I remember it was quite lengthy and rich.

SMWS 26.77 “Church Pews and Hymn Books” (Clynelish 27 y.o.)
Nose: I didn’t get the name from the nose at all. To me it was a meadow of sun-warmed wildflowers, with hints of vanilla and some sea-saltiness.

Palate: Here I did get some mustiness of old books and dark wood, but also lemon and rosemary, some other light fruits as well.

Finish: Again, no notes, but it continued in the same fashion as the palate. The dram as a whole definitely improved in balance and depth with water.

Good things come in threes.

Mortlach 16 y.o.
I recently had the 15 year old and found its older brother to be worlds apart in terms of nose and taste. I much prefer this one.

Nose: Quite briny with a bit of cream soda and very light orange — almost Irn Bru-y, come to think of it.

Palate: Lots of cherry and other dried fruit; some vague hints of cough syrup, but not unpleasant.

Finish: Warm and slightly spicy.

Kilchoman 4 1/2 y.o.
Nose: Smoke, brine, and gorse — very pleasant indeed.

Palate: Quite peaty, naturally, with some oatcake and, oddly enough, green lentil. I also got some nice spearmint notes and plenty of oak.

Finish: Still nicely smoky/peaty and not heavy. A really nice final dram to the evening.

During the meeting we conducted business, like electing a new committee for next year, and also held an auction — timed towards the end of the night, as we were all quite steamin’ — for WaterAid. Although I’d have liked to pick up several of the lovely bottles up for auction (like the Wemyss Honey Harvest or a liter of The Dalmore 15 y.o.), I had to think  of luggage restrictions — and all the other bottles I have to take home in August — so I contented myself with one bottle of Compass Box’s Great King Street, a fantastic blend which seems to be rapidly growing in popularity.

I’m trying not to think about leaving Edinburgh and WOLS, overwhelmed as I am with work, school, and wedding planning; but when it does cross my mind that there will be no more Thursday night meetings, no more silly banter, no more opportunities to taste amazing whiskies with awesome people at an insanely low price — I feel a little ache, one I’m certain will deepen over time.

One of my biggest personal flaws is my inability to live in the moment, my tendency to feel nostalgic for things before they’ve even passed, but this time, I think it’s warranted.

Thanks for an incredible year, WOLS. Slàinte!